This Roadmap a resource for local development districts (LDDs) in Appalachia to help promote broadband deployment for underserved and unserved areas of their community. The Roadmap attempts to examine each major phase of a local broadband initiative chronologically, expounding on decision points, common challenges, and best practices.
The process of improving broadband in a region follows six clear phases, generally but not always in this order:
Establish Strategic Leadership focuses on developing the foundational components of a local broadband initiative related to vision, organization, and stakeholders. This section includes guidance on assembling a broadband committee, selecting a capable project leader, and setting measurable goals that all involved parties can agree to. This section also discusses the types of federal, state, and non-profit assistance that may be available for an initiative to leverage.
Evaluate the Current State of Broadband Infrastructure addresses what leaders need to know about the state of their communities’ current connectivity in order to begin developing solutions that increase broadband access. This section includes guidance on conducting needs assessments and feasibilities studies that accurately measure not just the current level of broadband supply in the community, but the anticipated demand that increased broadband access will bring as well. This section also considers the potential legislative and regulatory roadblocks at the state and federal level that many influence a community’s deployment strategy going forward.
Promote Digital Inclusion considers strategies local leaders should take to engage the community at large in the broadband initiative. The section discusses how to leverage local anchor institutions to educate residents about the benefits of broadband generally, while also increasing community awareness about the expected ‘return on investment’ of the local initiative. Strategies on promoting digital inclusion and encouraging an equitable adoption of broadband are also addressed.
Reform Legislative and Regulatory Barriers describes what legislative or regulatory barriers may be impeding broadband investment at the local level. This section includes guidance and resources on how to streamline burdensome local regulations that increase broadband deployment cost and disincentivize private sector investment.
Organizing Institutions that Support Infrastructure considers the various factors that determine how to best select the optimal organizational model that will deploy and support the local broadband infrastructure. This section considers how leaders should weigh project goals, community assets, and available partners in order to select an optimal organizational structure that will meet a community’s development and financial needs.
Exploring Funding Opportunities offers guidance on how to locate and apply for eligible federal and state financing programs that may be leveraged to advance a broadband initiative or a portion of one.